Time is not standing still, technology either. Get a new habit to study new online course in the industry you are working in every several months. Be up-to-date in your knowledge with the technology the rest of the world is already using.
Tech evangelist, experienced programmer, technical lead and travel enthusiast, possessing a Master degree in Computer Science and three years of experience as certified SAP HCM Consultant Human Capital Management). Marina Shumaieva is the Co-founder and CTO of CruiseBe, a platform that provides cruise lovers with the cruise itinerary aggregator via the website, iOS app and Facebook AI chatbot that proposes day-by-day schedule of a cruise with a complete list of attractions in each port of call and offline route navigation system on the ship. Firstly launched on the consumer market, now CruiseBe provides B2B end-to-end easily-customizable turnkey technical solutions for the cruise industry.
Among Marina`s responsibilities are coordinating all technical aspects of the company, establishing the technical strategy and technological roadmap, programming algorithms and implementing innovative solutions.
After presenting the first cruise AI chatbot and iOS app on TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Alley in San Francisco, Marina was invited to be the speaker on major travel conferences like Smart Travel Data Summit in Miami 2018 and EyeFroTravel Digital Summit in San Francisco 2018 covering the topic about Machine Learning and AI chatbots in the travel industry, CruiseBe case study. She was also invited to join the panel on Techstars Startup Week in 2018.
Marina supports Women in tech movement and giving her experience she writes articles where she shares her knowledge and point of view with the profile publications. Her quotes and CruiseBe products were featured in the popular magazines like Washington Post, Dallas Magazine, Dallas News, Skift, USA Weekly, Tnooz, etc.
For the past years, Marina is focused on bringing innovations to the cruise industry, growing her company and focusing on using machine learning and artificial intelligence as the leading technology for making a virtual travel agent for the cruise industry.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
My husband Alex and I are passionate about traveling, especially Alex, he has a great talent to plan different vacations in details from A to Z. When we were on our honeymoon on the cruise, btw we took cruise on Allure of the Seas (at that time she was the biggest cruise ships in the world); we faced with several problems while preparing for our vacation: firstly, it took us a lot of time to surf the Internet and to make the list of thing we want to do in each port of call, secondly, when we boarded on the cruise ship, it was tough to find our way to one or another place on the ship (some cruise ships are more like small cities).
When you are an entrepreneur, I guess, a lot of problems you are facing, you begin to think if you are the right person to solve them (in case you know the solution). We decided that this is exactly what we want to do next in our lives, and we already have a solution in our minds. The solutions that will help cruises to save time while planning the vacation, the platform that will automatically generate an ultimate day-by-day schedule of a cruise with a complete list of attractions and activities in each port of call, and offline route navigation system on the ship.
As a result, now we are expanding CruiseBe to become the first cruise one-stop shop marketplace and social network.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
When you are working for your own company, it doesn’t matter if it is a workday or weekend. You are always involved in one or another business process, whether it is some corporate meetings, development process or you are just sitting and drinking morning coffee, but anyway all your thoughts are filled with company issues (future plans, new product ideas, brainstorming, etc.). If we talking about one day, 24 hours, the best way you can do your day productive is planing you next day beforehand, for example, before going to bed. This way, in the morning you will have a time schedule of thing that should be done. As I am a chief technical officer, and this position has the list of responsibilities, among them I also have to do the full-stack development with my team. This type of work requires full-concentration, that is why usually I code late at night. On the other hand, all the meetings, preparations for conferences and documents I do during the normal business working hours. If we circle back to the question “What does your typical day look like” the right answer will be “Everyday is untypical when you are running your own company”.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Hackathon. Yes, so easy to say, only one word, but not that easy at all to achieve the goal in a limited amount of time and resources. What I mean by “hackathon” is the way Alex and I just sit down and brainstorm; as a result, the idea of the next product or the new feature for the existing product is born. After that we are spending 1-2-3 days on the office, making the MVP (minimum viable product). It worth mentioning, that we do have a great combination of talents and skills with the help of which we can quickly make the MVP of nearly every idea that we have. Alex is an excellent idea generator and marker; I am responsible for all the technological aspects.
The main thing that helps me in bringing ideas to life is to disconnect from the world around me for several days and concentrate on what I am doing.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am grateful or happy (if I can say so) to live in the Information Society, in the world, where everything you need to know is right here, available for you in one click. Open your laptop and just Google. I am excited by the opportunity to observe the process of AI (artificial intelligence) development, and I am more than excited to be part of this process and to stand at the origins of adding value and datasets to the AI applications that are used in the travel industry.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Half an hour outside walk in the park. This is a great way to relax and at the same time do some exercises. Moreover, during the walk, Alex and I always discuss our next plan, product ideas, etc. And what is really interesting, that some great ideas just pop up in your mind while you are walking. I bet I am not the only person who noticed that your creative part of the brain works better when you are walking and not just sitting in the office.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It would be pretty common advice: don’t be afraid and don’t hesitate. Almost all the problems are because we afraid to do something or we hesitate and finally we lost the right moment or opportunity.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Most people think that they are unique, original and different from other. That’s why most people aren’t unique, original and different from other.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Online self-studying. If you are planning on bringing innovation to this world or at-least running a profitable business, you have to use up-to-date technology. The IT is rapidly developing, every year (even month) new version of programming languages are released, updated software should be installed, new innovational technologies are presented, etc. So you should be aware of what is going on around you in the world. And as for me, the easiest way to do this is to take online courses several times per year. This way, for example, I studied machine learning algorithms, that we are going to implement in our company’s products, I studied how to use AI in the applications, etc. And what I like the most, is that I can study online, from home or office.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
We focused on one major thing – be useful to people. When your product or service is useful and helpful your business will grow anyway. If you are creating something only just for some benefits, you will definitely lose. You should think first and foremost about your client and quality of your product or service.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My first startup died. We were young, and we didn’t have the necessary knowledge. I think every entrepreneur has to work hard and study, learn all the time. In my case, I learned a lot from this situation. We created a new startup, we studied a lot, we understood what we did wrong, and we kept working hard. This startup was pretty successful. My current startup is among top-20 hottest in DFW in 2018. So now I would probably say that I needed this failure. It helped me become who I am.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Have you ever used Amazon Primenow or any other food delivery services? Or do you love Starbucks? I assume that a lot of hard-working people don’t have time to walk to Starbucks during a workday. They had to drink usual office coffee. The idea is coffee delivery to offices. Let it be some kind of “coffeesharing”. You have an app, and you can place an order. And people how are in Starbucks now or nearby could buy it and bring it to you for some reward.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I recently spent were the entrance tickets to several National Parks. I had a great weekend, and I cleaned my mind and “reboot” myself. Those days you spend with nature without an internet connection are precious. And, you know what, it really helps your company because after such weekend you come back with full motivation to work and new ideas.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
The list of software that I use on a daily basis is rather big, and it is hard to highlight something in particular, especially when each type of work has its own professional software, whether it is web development tools, web services for marketing purposes or some programs that manage your timetable.
However, if I try to imagine my life without one of the software products I use, the main difficulty I would face with managing my remote team. So here is the answer: Slack. I use this service every day 24/7 with my team to overcome challenges with communication as we`re physically situated in different countries and time zones.
The process of communication between the team is very important. I think this service is the most comfortable way of communication. I would say that since we began to use Slack, we saved a lot of time and our productivity had grown twice.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend a book written by Sir Richard Branson: Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way. This is a great autobiography and a great story. I would say it’s pretty unusual and very interesting. This book tells us not only about business but also about a very interesting way of life. This book definitely motivates and pushes to actions. It is quite inspiring, but it warns against unnecessary madness in life!
What is your favorite quote?
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” William Shakespeare
- Try to bring your new validated idea to life ASAP by creating the first MVP in a limited amount of time, like on Hackathon. This way you decrease the risk of losing the right moment to show your idea to the world.
- Allow yourself to rest, even better on nature. You couldn’t even imagine how this will help you to become more concentrated on what you are doing and come back with full motivation to work and new ideas.
- Time is not standing still, technology either. Get a new habit to study new online course in the industry you are working in every several months. Be up-to-date in your knowledge with the technology the rest of the world is already using.
- Create useful and needed products for the society. Validate your idea, get reviews and feedback from the users. Remember, that if you think that the product is worth launching, it doesn’t mean that you will get a success, you simply might be not the right target audience to make such decisions.
- Plan your next day beforehand, for example, before going to bed. It will help you to be more productive and fully concentrate on your daily “to-do-list” without any other distractions.